3 Scary Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

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You carefully check your Halloween candy before you open it, right? Any sweets that look weird or suspicious get chucked in the trash. Well, the trash is also where marketing emails that are poorly designed, targeted and timed often end up.

But your company's branded emails and e-newsletters don't have to. Not if you treat the people who receive them -- your potential customers -- to relevant, carefully-curated messages that resonate with them and, better yet, pique their interest in your products and services.

Here are three freakish email marketing fails to avoid like tainted Halloween candy:

1. 'Mutilated' designs.
Don't haunt your email campaigns with scary-garish, stale stock photos or outdated images. Erik Harbison, chief marketing officer of AWeber Communications, a Chalfont, Pa.-based email marketing solutions provider, suggests that you opt for vibrant, eye-catching images of your products and services that bring your brand story to life.

Online vintage-inspired clothing retailer ModCloth excels at this, for example. The company emails its subscribers visually-appealing emails accented with elegant yet playful pictures of their newest fashions with links to where to buy each item on their website. The company's well-balanced email designs are consistent with their online store content, which can have a welcoming effect on subscribers.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Email Marketing Service

If you're in the market for a prefab template that you can quickly customize with your company's logo and colors, consider choosing an email marketing solution like AWeber, Constant Contact or MailChimp. They offer wide selections of free, professionally-designed templates don't require HTML.

2. 'Fiendish' frequency.
Scarfing candy several times a day is too much. So is emailing subscribers multiple times a day. It scares people off, along with their spending dollars.

Let your subscribers decide how often they'll receive emails from you from the get-go, Harbison advises. You can do this by allowing them to choose if they'd like to get messages from you daily, weekly or monthly when they subscribe via your online signup form.

"Cap your frequency to match your consumers' preferences," Harbison says. "If they do unsubscribe, offer to reduce the frequency to a minimum."

Related: Why Marketers Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Unsubscribe Button

If you're an apparel retailer, you might want to ask your subscribers if they'd like to be emailed when certain clothes are available in their size and favorite styles and colors. If you run a restaurant, you can ask subscribers if they'd like to be notified about menu changes and specials.

3. 'Eerie' irrelevance
Strange, irrelevant emails that aren't correctly personalized and geographically targeted send the message that you're clueless about your target audience and their needs.

Harbison offers two frighteningly common examples: "My name's John and I receive an email addressed to Mark or I get a promotion for a sale in New York and I live in Philadelphia."

Instead, take the time upfront, again, during initial subscriber signup, to ask people what kinds of topics they'd like to receive email about, Harbison says. Then segment your email lists to tailor certain messages to certain groups. If you notice a large group of people leaving specific types of messages unopened or unsubscribing to your list after a particular series of messages, it's likely that you emails are off-target.

Related: The Keys to Writing Reminder Emails That Work

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